Talking to your teen about sex can be a lot harder than talking to a younger child about the topic. He probably knows the mechanics, but you’ll have to discuss all the issues that come up around sex–peer pressure, being ready and respecting others’ decisions–at a time when talking to parents about anything personal is “uncool.” You may worry that talking to him about sex will seem as if you are giving the OK, but kids who can talk to parents about the issue are less likely to have sex early and are more likely to use safe behaviors when they do start.
Tell her the basics if she doesn’t already know them. Most parents will have talked to their children about sex using simple language from an early age. Your child has also probably gone through at least a basic sex education course at school and has also probably heard about it from friends. If your teen has somehow managed to escape all of this, you need to tell her how things work.
Demonstrate how to use a condom. Remind your teen that condoms are the only way that he can prevent sexually transmitted diseases. He should wear a condom even if the girl is on birth control pills. Use a banana to demonstrate and let him practice. Girls should learn this skill as well.
Use movies and TV to talk about peer pressure and safe sex. It’s common to see the characters in movies or on TV shows have sex. Use these to discuss the peer pressure that the character was receiving and what your child thinks about that. Ask whether he thought the girl really wanted to have sex or what he would have done in a similar situation. Additionally, you rarely see teens on TV using protection–use this to stress the importance of being safe when the time comes.
Instill your own values about sexual behavior. You may think that sex should be saved for after marriage, that sex should only occur in the confines of a loving relationship or that sex is something that’s fun as long as you’re responsible about it. Your child should understand what you think about sex, though she may make her own decisions about it.
Discuss the consequences of unplanned pregnancy. An Oprah.com article by sex and relationship expert Dr. Laura Berman reports that one in three girls becomes pregnant before turning 20, so it’s likely that your teen will know someone dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, even if she never has to deal with the situation herself. A teen who is starting to have sex should be prepared to accept the consequences that may come from doing so. Boys should understand the responsibilities as well–it’s not all on the girls.